Lipscomb Associate AD Brent High reports in from Honduras on day five of the Softball mission trip (An internet outage delayed the report until Sunday).
Saturday was a day none of us will ever forget – for two completely different reasons for two different groups. After three very long days of nothing but strenuous manual labor, we surprised the girls on Saturday and let them know they could go on a four-hour horseback trip tour of the Mission Lazarus refuge that would take them to the top of a nearby mountain. At the top of that mountain is the Mission Lazarus coffee plantation.
Cameron Hartsell who works here at Mission Lazarus and is by all accounts a latter day Davy Crockett, led the three softball coaches and nine players up the mountain. Most of the girls had very limited to no horseback riding experience. Their journey to the top was pretty routine. They enjoyed the tour, saw the green coffee beans growing on the plants, enjoyed a cup of freshly ground coffee and then headed back.
It was then that their adventure and the memories that will last a lifetime kicked in. Just as it has done almost every day here, a literal monsoon came out of nowhere and packed a wallop. The girls said the wind was blowing so hard and the rain was coming down with such consistency that it was hard to see the horse in front of you. The ravines, creeks and streams began to swell making it impossible to cross some of them. At one point the girls had to dismount and walk their horses across one of the swollen creeks because the horses wouldn’t cross them voluntarily. When they got back to the refuge they were completely soaked from head to toe. They raced for the massive fireplace at the dining area and huddled around it like victims of a boat crash in the Antarctic. The rest of the evening they spent making the fire even bigger and drying out their clothes and shoes on the hearth.
Five of us chose a different adventure and set ourselves up for another set of lifelong memories. Ryan Terry, Brian Ryman, Shelby Cunningham, Kristen Sturdivant and I took a truck and headed for the cow town of Duyure near the Nicaraguan border. It was there that Ryan and I worked with a team of 10 Lipscomb folks back in January.
Our mission was simple - try to find all of the people we had spent meaningful time with back in January. Our first stop was at our 10-year-old friend Antonio’s house. He was not there but I immediately recognized Carla, one of the girls that camped out beside our adobe house worksite literally all day long with her little brother Franklin back in January. I called out to Carla and she smiled. I asked her where 4-year-old Franklin was and magically he appeared from behind a tree. We talked to them for a while and gave them Lipscomb jerseys. Then Antonio’s mom came down and greeted us and informed us that he was away working somewhere. We told her we’d be back in a little while and hoped to see him then.
We headed down the mountain a short way to the adobe house worksite. It was thrilling to see it completed. When we left in January it was about 2/3 of the way to completion. It is about a 20x15 dwelling split into two main rooms. The lady of the house was there with several of the kids. Ryan explained to her who we were, that we had worked on the house in January and she quickly welcomed us inside. She was thrilled to show off her new house. In the back room there were feed sacks hung from the ceiling to the floor separating “rooms” within the room. It was then that we learned that “catorce” people were living in this 300 square feet of space. Catorce! 14!
We prayed with the family. We gave them a gigantic food sack and jerseys for the kids and headed down the mountain to try and find our other friends. We made our way to the Iglesia de Cristo (Church of Christ) building but no one was there. We then turned down one of the streets where Ryan just happened to see Faustino in one of the doorways. Faustino was the older man who worked with us to build adobe bricks back in January. He was also one of the 14 people who now live in the adobe house. He recognized Ryan immediately. They exchanged embraces and talked about why were had returned. Faustino led us to the house of Jose – one of the pastors for the Iglesia de Cristo in Duyure. He too recognized us immediately, greeted us with an embrace and invited us into his home.
Jose then joined our Mission Impossible of trying to find the other little guys we had met back in January. The first on our list was Ronnie. Ronnie worked with us every single day in January at the adobe site. He’s about 10 years old and pound for pound one of the strongest kids on the planet. We made our way to his house. There we met his father who informed us that Ronnie was off working in the mountains. That wouldn’t stop us. We took our little Nissan truck off road from the dirt road if you know what I mean. Along the way we saw another friend – Wilson – who we met in January. He told us Ronnie was just up the road. As we struggled up a muddy hill and made our way over the top, there he was in the middle of the road, leading a burro loaded down with a gigantic bundle of sticks. We greeted him, gave him a jersey, talked about school and then made our way back up the hill.
We stopped back by the adobe house and spent some time with Jorge – one of the little boys who helped us every day in January. He was so happy to see us and get the jersey.
We then made our way back up the hill, hoping that our buddy Antonio had made his way home. As we came around the corner there was a line of kids on the fence – obviously anticipating our arrival. In the middle, wearing a yellow Jesus shirt and the biggest smile this side of the Equator was Antonio. We got it all on video. It was an amazing reunion. We asked him about his bicycle that the guys had bought for him back in January. He said he loved it, that it was “rojo” in color. We gave him a jersey, talked for a while, made some photos, told him we’d try to see him again in January when we bring our next men’s athletics team and then said adios.
I got back to the dining area before anyone. I re-built the fire, turned on my ITunes “worship” playlist and just looked up at the mountains. I left the music running as the girls from the horseback trip surrounded the fire. It wasn’t planned but for about the next 45 minutes, the girls either sat in complete silence or sang along to Carrie Underwood’s rendition of How Great Thou Art, John Mark McMillan’s How He Loves, Jeremy Camp’s Overcome and several others from Chris Tomlin and MercyMe. It was a definite highlight of the trip.
We spent the rest of the night around the fire talking, sharing stories from the day, answering “interview” questions and just enjoying being together. The clothes and shoes were largely dry by the end of the night.
It rained and rained and rained some more on Saturday. The internet was down most of the day so it’s been hard to get updates through.
I had already written my day four update before maybe the most important two hours of the trip took place. We were all sitting around the fire in a circle. Mollie Mitchell asked us to share moments where we had seen God on the trip. There were tears shed. Almost every girl shared something very deep and meaningful. We had a “popcorn” prayer to end the evening where all of the girls had the opportunity to jump in and pray. It was a mountaintop experience on this mountain in Honduras.
I am blessed. We are blessed. We are changed forever.